It’s always amazing to me how the real impact of what you do as a teacher has very little to do with the day to day remuneration or any sort of ‘recognition’ you receive.

Humanity really comes down to being a big blob of interpersonal connections.

I was having a conversation with a family member recently and we were discussing some negative things that had happened in the past.

Incidents that involved people behaving badly towards others and she asked me if I was angry at any of those people for what they’d done to me.

I’m 54 years old now. The people in question are dead. What’s the point in being angry?

And in fact, if it hadn’t been for what they did, my family wouldn’t be where they are today. Sometimes ‘goodness’ can come out of a reaction to ‘badness’.

Ironically, ‘bad’ people can make us more ‘good’.

Out of great evil, good can come. And I think it has to do with what I call the ‘pool table’ effect.

Imagine we’re all different colored balls on a pool table. Some external force acts upon the white ball so it hits us and sends us in a certain direction, perhaps towards one of the corner pockets.

Most people live their lives like this, guided by nothing but the whim of external forces and then the reaction of their emotions and instincts. They’re little more than animals being prodded forward.

But thing is, unlike pool balls, we humans have a choice. We can decide which direction we want to go in. And even though the white ball has pushed us one way, we can decide to go another.

That’s the difference.

A lot of people underestimate human choice, freedom of will. It’s why sometimes children who have been brutally abused grow up to be some of the nicest human beings because they have decided to reject such behaviour for themselves.

They make a–yes let’s use the word–a MORAL choice NOT to do what was done to them!

I know for myself I made such a choice regarding bullying. I know what that feels like, intimately, so I have chosen never to bully other people. To restrain myself, especially when the power is on my side!

So with regards to the people who did wrong to me, why should I be angry? I’ve looked at it from their point of view, or at least I’ve tried to. And sometimes they were just ignorant, or just wicked human beings. And yet…I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

On a lighter note, I often get reminders of the kind of impact I’ve had on people. Last year when I was doing the residency at Downsview Public Library I met a number or very nice young people, and one of them, a girl who was painfully shy, sent me this email. (She gave me permission to share it.)

Hi I’m Stacey from your public speaking and creative writing classes.

I would like to thank you and tell you that for the first time in my life I made it to the next round of the speech arts competition. Me and my sister Diana, who also went to your classes and is competing in speech arts, will be competing on Monday morning! Thank you for helping us and teaching us! I can’t believe that I’m competing on Monday and I’m really really nervous. Thanks to your help I managed to get up in front of my class and say the part of my speech that I had memorized. I’m not even done memorizing it yet but I know I can do it.

Thank you again


I am SO proud of Stacey! And I am so glad I was able to help her!

During that residency I had to really develop my public speaking and writing workshops! Lesson plans! The whole works! It developed me in ways I hadn’t expected because when you have to teach something, you end up figuring out how you’ve made it work for yourself.

It’s changed the way I conduct such workshops, and perhaps it’s even made me more versatile.

I’m really grateful to the Toronto Arts Council for funding me in that way!

And I’m grateful when people I’ve touched in some way, reach out and tell me about it. It’s a good deed to offer encouragement. You never know when the good things you say to someone will give them the lift they needed at just the right moment, to get over a particular hump.

And none of that would have happened, but for the things I endured as a kid.

So…it’s all good.